CDF Canada’s Womens’ Mentorship Program (WMP) was my eye-opener, my game changer! WMP challenged me to move out of my comfort zone and try bigger things, with my newfound confidence. A big thank you to the Canadian credit union sponsors, CDF, and all my mentors.
I (Evelyn Olunja) was part of the training in 2019. Prior to the WMP training, I worked as the Head of Marketing and Customer Service at the United Nations Savings and Credit Society, a position I held in June 2014. I had previously also held a similar position at Mwalimu National Savings and Credit Co-operative Society for 5 years (2009 -2014).
My main roles in Business Development, Customer Service, and Corporate Affairs in these two Financial Co-operatives mainly revolved around the members, notably membership recruitment and retention, savings mobilization, member education and training, savings mobilization, sale of loans, product review and development, communication, publicity, and corporate social responsibility, among others.
While performing my roles as a woman in a management position, I met many challenges bordering on gender stereotyping and lack of support from male and even female colleagues. Holding a management position as a woman in a male-dominated environment is extremely difficult and rising to the level of Chief Executive Officer and retaining that position is even harder because of all these intricacies.
After the WMP training, I gained an all-around, clear understanding of the operational areas of credit unions/cooperative societies. I developed confidence as a female manager knowing how to scale the heights in the male-dominated fields. I learned how to delegate some of my roles without feeling guilty and insecure – work-life balance. I learned how to support and uplift fellow women like myself and best of all I networked and gained friends from different parts of the globe, whom I reach out to whenever in need. I was also challenged to take on community service without waiting for the time until I will feel rich enough to do it.
As a result of the above, there have been many positive developments in my life, both professionally and personally, some of which are listed below:
A New Job as a Chief Executive Officer of Kenya USA Diaspora Sacco – August 2022
I immediately came back home with the knowledge and confidence from the WMP training and made up my mind to start applying for CEO positions. I got short-listed for two interviews in two Saccos where I went through to the final interview, finishing in the top three. Last year I got another opportunity for yet another interview and this time I got the job!
Women Mentorship – Registration of Women in Cooperatives Kenya Society
On 5th October 2019, together with an alumnus of WMP, Bettyrose Okiri, we founded the Women in Co-op Society Kenya, which was registered on 25th May 2021. The delay to get the papers was due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
I was elected Chairperson and we got straight to work. So far we have recruited 111 women from different Cooperative societies who we are currently mentoring and sharing our WMP lessons with. We also engage in community service.
I got together with other co-operative managers responsible for the growth of their Saccos to share ideas and mentor each other. Currently, there are 35 Marketing and Business Development managers from different Saccos learning from each other with one aim of growing the cooperative movement.
I have become a respected trainer in the co-operative industry in and outside Kenya, called upon to train in areas of marketing and leadership – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi.
Through The African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Associations (ACCOSCA), I have also been trained as a trainer of trainers for German Sparkassenstiftung for International Cooperation (DSIK), to train Co-operators in areas of financial inclusivity and leadership.
WMP- Echo Uganda
I joined the WMP alumni of Uganda, collaborating with Mercy, Dorothy, and Rita to conduct the Echo- program, which was quite successful.
I sit on the Boards of three secondary schools in Kenya to provide governance and direction to the running of the schools, while at the same time mentoring the youth.
I was elected to sit on the Board of Marketing Society of Kenya in April 2019 to provide direction to the marketing industry, allowing me the opportunity to represent the voice of the cooperative movement – a first in the industry!
National volunteer for CDF Canada
Recently I was appointed as a National Volunteer of CDF, Technical Advisor -SIF to spearhead the CDF’s Bicycle project, a meaningful project to help the rural community gain access to economic opportunities, education, and health among the other social amenities.